Today, we are interviewing Sumaya Shakir, who is from San Jose, California. She is a highly accomplished leader, humanist, technologist, speaker, mentor, adventure seeker, and an athlete who is passionately committed to supporting and elevating higher education and mentoring people in their lives and career.
In her professional role, Ms. Sumaya Shakir is Vice President of Information Technology at GlobalLogic Inc, San Jose, California. She has over twenty years of global experience in business strategy and enterprise technologies. She is passionate about technology, strategy, and leadership. Her current key areas of interest are emerging technologies related to all things AI and Quantum Computing.
She received her Bachelors (BS) degree with honors in Computer Engineering from Bharadidasan University, India, and her Masters (MS) degree in Enterprise Software technologies from San Jose State University. She attended Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, for her executive MBA.
She is an avid speed reader and reads 80 to 100 books a year. She spends her time hiking, climbing, traveling, and doing anything fitness-related activities. She was a competitive powerlifter in 2014 and held records for the same.
1. How did you get into what you do right now? Please tell us more about your journey!
Being born in a family that valued education and being innately curious as a child, I always knew I was going to embark on a professional career and leave home to come to the United States. I was born in India, raised for some time in West Africa, and then came to the United States in 2000. The best thing that happened to me was when my dad enrolled me in an engineering college. It all began there 20 years ago. And then, when I came to the United States in 2000, I immediately enrolled for a Masters Degree in Software Engineering at San Jose State University. The first day of graduate school was one of the happiest days of my life. I can still feel the air I inhaled that day. The rest of it is history.
2. Did you always want to be in technology?
Growing up, I always thought I would be a children's doctor. And then I had a million ideas from joining public service as a high commissioner officer to being a UN Ambassador to writing a book to starting a company to disowning everything I have and live as a nomad or go to Tibet, but for now, I am happy and proud of where I am doing what I love.
3. So you are happy where you are right now?
As for my career, yes. But there will always be something brewing, some new goal, some new plan. There is never an end state. Currently, I am exploring opportunities to teach as a professor in engineering colleges.
I always wanted to teach. Something about teaching makes me very happy. I taught a few engineering courses when there was a shortage of teachers, and it was very rewarding and fulfilling. During exams, there would be a line of classmates outside my house, begging me to tutor them because somehow, the way I teach stays in their minds forever.
4. Who are your role models?
I look up to a lot of leaders from centuries ago to modern-day leaders to even everyday common people from all walks of life from emperors to inventors to spiritual leaders to revolutionaries and war heroes. I stopped having one role model but instead picked up the patterns of grit all these people displayed.
Now my role model and my inspiration is my own higher self. I stopped looking for outside and started looking inside to see what I desire and what I need to do to draw and to be my own inspiration.
5. You have won so many awards and accolades for your professional achievements. How did you do it?
By giving my best in everything I do. And simply by persisting no matter how hard or impossible it may seem.
6. Why mentoring? What started you there? Are there any professional organizations you mentored?
I take pride in actively mentoring individuals to succeed in STEM careers. It's humbling to share everything I know.
I have mentored several young women and launched their careers. I have mentored several networks in the last few years, including the Veterans Mentoring Program, Women In Technology(WIT), and most recently as a mentor at San Jose State University. It's my way of giving back to humanity.
7. Any upcoming engagements or events?
I have a number of upcoming speaking events at Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium, where I am speaking to San Jose State University engineering college students on February 27, 2020.
I will also be as a speaker and panelist for the 2020 Silicon Valley Women In Engineering Conference on March 14, 2020.
And sometime, at the end of April 2020, I will be speaking to graduate students at San Jose State University.
8. What inspires you?
The infinite potential of the unknown Science and the mysteries of the universe intrigues me, but my daily inspiration is seeing ordinary people do extraordinary things and contributing to humanity.
9. What drives you?
Personally, to me, to wake up every day and make it the best day ever and to motivate and inspire other people makes me happy. If somebody tells me that because of me, they are better today, I know I have achieved my purpose.
10. Other than your professional accomplishments, you seem to be all over the place with your adventure side. What are some of your memorable experiences?
Most of my memorable experiences have to do with some adventure I have been in. There are many, but one of them is when I tried ice climbing. I never knew it was something I could do, and for somebody that has a very high fright or flight response, this was the bravest thing I ever did.
The next one was where I went for a crazy canyoneering experience to Neon Canyon that required me to swim in murky waters filled with critters, and I don't know how to swim and to squirm between narrow spaces lined with scorpions. But it's one of the best memories I ever made.
Or the time I signed up for a powerlifting competition without any formal training and worked hard to participate and win.
11. Wow! Does the madness stop? So whats next?
Ha, ha, ha. Never!
I have signed up for two adventures in 2020; one is for ice cave exploring, and the other one is cliff camping, where you spend the night camping on a tent suspended mid-air from a mountain. I am excited.
12. What's your greatest fear?
I have not always been like that. I used to always be a constant worrier, and the “FEAR OF FAILURE” was my constant shadow. I have liberated myself from those limiting beliefs. My daily affirmations include the phrase “I AM FEARLESS.” Fear is a self-imposed limiting belief, and it exists only if you give life to it.
A lot of times when I was going after higher education or career advancement, I did not have the support I needed but I persisted in my dreams and desires. That’s why the power of persistence matters. Just know, all things are possible.
Whenever I sense fear, I immediately change it to a word of power.
13. Looking back, what's one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started?
That the right time is NOW. Don't wait. Don't worry about how or what or when. Just go after what you want NOW. Anything that is in your way is your self-limiting belief. If you encounter the fear and think “There is no way I can do it”, immediately change it “I can do it.”
14. What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
Being a life-long learner and constantly moving out of my comfort zone and having the grit. Knowing that even if I fall down several times, I get back stronger each time because I am loyal to my desire.
Journaling, Meditation, and Gratitude have been my biggest allies in the last few months. The power of journaling is a sort of awakening I have never felt before.
15. What keeps you going when things get tough?
Persistence to meet my end goal.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I chant this a few times, and I know that if I keep persisting, I will get my desire fulfilled. It always works. It's some kind of a secret cosmic law that still works for me.
16. What are your other hobbies or passions?
I often disconnect with urban life and go into hiding to explore National Parks. I love taking pictures with my Canon SLR, Climbing, Kayaking, and Back-country Camping. Other times you will find me cooking or grilling with a new recipe I invented.
17. Any message for our readers
Be limitless. Be persistent. Don't ever stop dreaming. Have faith in yourself and be your own cheerleader.
And oh, make books and journaling your new BFFs. All leaders are readers is one of my favorite quote.